Sales Pitch

Marketing counties for growth

Back Article Mar 31, 2012 By Andrea Kennedy

In the Capital Region, it’s up to each county to reel in recovery by marketing to businesses that stimulate economic growth.

“We have the richness of California at our fingertips, and then we have this welcoming, vibrant business climate that allows you to enjoy a decent standard of living,” says Lila Wallrich, creative director at Sacramento’s Wallrich Landi Integrated Marketing Communications. “Somehow that needs to be sellable.”

In that line, Gloria Wright, general manager of the Palladio at Broadstone in Folsom, says she and brokers continue to court new tenants by marketing regional perks: an abundance of affordable housing, citizens with quality incomes and a smooth business transition.

Bob Burris, senior vice president of the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO) invests marketing dollars into well-developed strategies aimed at landing key business acquisitions primed to boost local economies in construction jobs and long-term employment.

“In the case of SACTO, they’re following a classic improvement marketing model of getting to know what your assets are, reaching out to possible targets and creating a relationship,” Wallrich says.

SACTO’s Burris says recognizing those assets plus regional business goals are key for tactical outreach.

Yuba and San Joaquin counties, for example, highlight enterprise zones that offer tax and regulatory breaks to investors; both have seen momentum out of the recession.

Yuba even uses its high unemployment rate as a lure. “With our unemployed rates, we certainly have lots of people that need to be put to work,” says Brynda Stranix, president and COO of the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development District.

Amador County, however, can’t market a workforce that’s thousands strong or a massive industrial stronghold, but Ron Mittelbrunn, director of the Amador County Economic Development Corporation, says he wouldn’t want to anyway.

“We’ve always known we’re not in that realm,” he says. “We market a quality of life. … We’re looking for that 20- to 25-employee company that’s tired of the rat race of the Bay Area and wants to move their employees and family here.”

Regardless of the region’s 40-plus wineries, the tourism and quality-of-life message on which wine regions such as the Napa Valley have comfortably rested cannot solely support the region — yet, at least — as evidenced in Amador County’s recent job losses.

Placer County, leading the way out of the recession with business expansions and job growth, saw a boost partly by promoting strong relationships with valuable constituents.

“We typically ask them three questions: ‘How’s business, what do you like about doing business in the community, and what could be done to improve business?’” says David Snyder, director of Placer’s Office of Economic Development.

Wallrich says it’s no surprise that marketing a relationship to local companies has improved Placer’s success, especially since the marketing dollar goes at least six times further in retaining an existing customer than reaching out to a new one, studies show.

“There’s a lot of wisdom there,” she says. “If they’re doing that and then are willing to do things to make sure they offer a continued and better value, I think they’ve got a real winning formula.”

In counties where assets are more agrarian, SACTO’s Burris recommends an innovative marketing spin: agricultural sciences.

“I think that all of the agricultural-based markets, especially those tied to innovative crops, are going to see some dramatic growth,” he says.

Burris suggests latching on to this progressive and distinct crop concept could help the area rise from economic ashes with a stronger regional identity.

“When you really think about it, that goes to the core of how this region started, something that is truly unique nationally,” Burris says. “All of the counties will definitely benefit from it.”